Monday, June 10, 2013

The Long Goodbye

Mr. TheraP calls it The Long Goodbye.  Advance warning that his time on this planet will be shortened.  Shortened - from the illusion that we'll both grow older and olderThat whatever comes our way, we will face it together.  

Via surgical invasion and medical statistics we now know he has a lung condition that is chronic and progressive with an average of 4-6 years from the time of diagnosis.  We know there is no treatment.  Except a lung transplant.  But he's too old.  Which, honestly, we're thankful for.  He's grateful he won't have to undergo what he views as the trench warfare of some medical treatments.  (Chemo, radiation, a lung transplant.)  It's not cancer, but it is, in the words of the surgeon who did the diagnostic surgery:  "quite relentless, quite bad."

We've been given one more statistic.  When he gets to the point where he needs oxygen all the time, he'll have only a year or two left.  He doesn't use it now; then again we haven't met with the pulmonologist he's scheduled to see next month, in a nearby city, a few weeks before the move to a retirement community.

We were planning to move there anyway.  For Mr. TheraP.  So he could use the University Library.  For his decades-long research on a medieval poem - his life's work, not yet completed.  There were some other reasons.  But those reasons have pretty much been eclipsed by the medical news...

As anyone reading this can imagine, the emotions have run the gamut.

Thankfully we can discuss all of this.  Sometimes through the tears.  It puts everything into perspective.  A perspective we always knew about.  Even talked about.  But being give a timeframe concentrates the mind.  Makes you realize what really matters.  Gives you unexpected tasks and unexpected opportunities for appreciation.

We're appreciating that we know.  That we have time.  That we can choose to savor this time.  To reassess and set aside old issues, recommit ourselves to the great adventure one embarks on in a marriage.  The opportunity to love and be loved - in spite of all the limitations and quirks and difficulties of trying to merge two lives.  Into one.  We're reassessing our past.  In light of the present.  We're reassessing the future.  In the light.

I'm a believer.  Mr. TheraP isn't sure.  I'm OK with that.  So is he.  Because my beliefs don't limit his.  Nor his, mine.  The Great Mystery surrounds us.  Has us in its grip.  Is relentless in its loving care (see TS Eliot's Four Quartets.)

So we have this time.  This advance warning.  Making time more poignant.  Elevating the everyday.   Deepening the present moment - beyond the everyday.

Time is now altered.  Irrevocably.  

Last night we watched a movie.  In a foreign language.  Somehow it struck us both so powerfully.  I think it's partly due to the exquisite film and acting.  The lush beauty.  The range of emotions.  But it's also due to the fact that whatever happens now happens within this new perspective we've been granted.  A blessing.  In disguise.

This morning I read an article.  It struck me so deeply.  Way beyond it's subject matter.  Or how the writer happened on his subject.  Its end is worth quoting:
Only those with no imagination, and no grounding in reality, would deny the possibility that they will live forever. It’s possible that many reading these words will never die. Let’s assume, though, that we all have a set number of days to indent the world with our beliefs, to find and create the beauty that only a finite existence allows for, to wrestle with the question of purpose and wrestle with our answers.

Most of the time, most people are not crying in public, but everyone is always in need of something that another person can give, be it undivided attention, a kind word or deep empathy. There is no better use of a life than to be attentive to such needs. There are as many ways to do this as there are kinds of loneliness, but all of them require attentiveness, all of them require the hard work of emotional computation and corporeal compassion. All of them require the human processing of the only animal who risks “getting it wrong” and whose dreams provide shelters and vaccines and words to crying strangers.
We live in a world made up more of story than stuff. We are creatures of memory more than reminders, of love more than likes. Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be messy, and painful, and almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die.
I love this guy!  Wow!  His words echo in my heart... "to indent the world with our beliefs, to find and create the beauty that only a finite existence allows for, to wrestle with the question of purpose and wrestle with our answers."

And the final paragraph.  Our task now.


William D. Lindsey said...

You are both very much in my prayers, TheraP. You are, as always, courageous and deep-souled, to share so freely.

TheraP said...

Thank you so much for your love and prayers, Bill. It means a great deal.